Why I left the industry after 25 years

Why I left the industry after 25 years

First off, I’m not done cooking, I’m just done with the bullshit in the industry and working my ass off for other people’s businesses. I’m still available for private events, teaching and things like that.

That being said, fuck the industry.

The details on what happened don’t really matter and the truth is, I still really like most of the people involved and it kind of breaks my heart. What matters is that, after 25 years, I still found myself dealing with the same drama over and over and yet having nothing to show for my work.

Fun fact, Washington is a “right to work state” meaning that I can be fired more or less at any time for really no reason and that I don’t have any rights to my “intellectual property” i.e., my recipes and my dishes. I can be fired and they can still profit off of my work as long as they like.

The game has changed and every year guys are either getting out or dying as a result.

Sorry to break it to you but I want a dog and a motorcycle. I’m not talking a purebred and a Triumph, I’m talking a rescue and a used Honda. At the rate I’m going, neither of these is possible. Not to mention ever traveling unless of course, I’m moving to the location to cook.

This was not an easy choice to make. The Kitchen is all I’ve really done since I was 12 years old. Sure, I had a few stints doing construction and even learned to Tattoo in Hawaii, but I was always cooking on the side. Being in a Kitchen is the only time I feel normal and sain and it’s been a refuge from the real world for many years. It kept me going when I lost my Old Man and had given me a reason to live. At the same time, it’s the very thing that’s killing me.

It was fun in my 20’s when I didn’t think I would live to see my 30’s and as hard as I pushed myself, I’m amazed I lasted this long. The late nights and three-day benders where a lot of fun. But the cost of living has gone up and the pay rate hasn’t and every year it gets harder and harder to justify the struggle while I watch my friends in other fields thrive.

Had I put in the sheer amount of time, energy, blood sweat, and tears into any other occupation I’d be doing a hell of a lot better than I am now. Yes, my attitude has played a major role in my lack of success, I’m sure I could have kissed a bit more ass and learned to play ball with the powers that be but really, fuck that.

I’m looking at the situation I’m in right now. Rent is late, I’m out of a job and I really don’t know what the fuck I’m going to do. At the same time I know it’s over and I’m a lot more at peace with it than I thought I’d be, that or I’m still in a state of shock.

I had a good run. 25 years is a long time and I got to see some shit man. I got to live in Hawaii and Alaska and even two stints in Yellowstone. I got to party with some really good people and have the kind of life that was anything but boring. If things ended right now, the ride was worth the price of admission.

Jan 1994

I’m sure as hell not done with food by any means. I’m just done spinning my wheels and wasting my time with an industry that no longer has anything to offer me other than stress and betrayal. If anything I’m doing this so that I don’t completely burn out and lose my love of cooking, that I don’t snap and go over the edge and into the void.

At the end of the day, it still comes down to love, fire, and a few simple ingredients.

Want more?!?



  1. Michael Stoller

    Chef, I am in the same position as you are. 35 years in the business and about to step away. Not sure what I am going to do but whatever it is that I do, I will put forth 100 percent. This industry takes a toll on our health, both physical and mental and the bs that comes along with it doesn’t make it any easier. I have followed your page for a while now. I would like to wish you the best of luck in whatever you do.

  2. Anthony

    I think I have read this about 10 times in a row. I’m battling this same decision right now I just don’t know what is out there or where to even start. Thank you for writing this.

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